The Colorado Rockies head into May in first place in the National League West even despite Sunday’s walk-off loss, and with the second-best record in the league. Considering who hasn’t helped them get there, this is a significant development:
— Last year’s staff leader Chad Bettis is in a battle with cancer, with three more chemotherapy treatments scheduled, and a return to the field uncertain
— Opening-day starter Jon Gray still is limping around the clubhouse in a walking boot — the result of a stress fracture in his left foot suffered in his third start. He’s pitched a total of 12.1 innings, and expected to miss most of May.
— Tom Murphy, who was expected to grab the majority of playing time behind the plate, still occasionally dons a brace for his right hand, fractured in a March 11 Cactus-League game. His return date also should come in May.
At least Ian Desmond finally took his first regular-season hacks on Sunday, after missing the first 25 games due to a broken bone in his left hand. It only took him until his second at-bat to get his first hit in a Rockies uniform — a hard single past third baseman Jake Lamb.
“We’ve had other guys step up,’’ third baseman Nolan Arenado said about the team’s 16-10 start. “It’s been good so far. April is over with now. It feels like it’s only been a week. That’s how fun it is when you win.
“To win ballgames in the major leagues, you have to be a complete team. Your starters have to go deep in games. You have to have a good bullpen. We’ve been doing a good job with that. That’s helping us out. You always want to do well (offensively). But there is less anxiety and stress now that we don’t have to put six-seven runs on the board to win games, like it’s been at times in the past.’’
Desmond took his glove out to left field for this game, and manager Bud Black says he’ll let situations dictate where Desmond is deployed in the near-future — with left field (especially vs. left-handed pitching) and first base the leading options.
“We signed him to play first base, but things change in this game,’’ Black said. “So all we know is today he’s playing left, and we’ll worry about today, today, and tomorrow, tomorrow.
“We’ve talked about (a Ben Zobrist-type role). Joe Maddon started doing that in Tampa. It took awhile for Ben to morph into that role. But is (Desmond) capable of that type of situation? No doubt about it.’’
What Desmond’s presence also means is a deeper lineup — not to mention a better bench. Desmond hit sixth against D-backs left-hander Patrick Corbin, dropping the dangerous Trevor Story to seventh.
“We feel good about it,’’ Black said. “This makes us better.’’
The corresponding roster move was to designate infielder Christian Adames for assignment — and keep IF/OF Pat Valaika. Adames, who has played parts of the last three-plus seasons with the Rockies, had been hitless in 13 at-bats off the bench this season. If he goes unclaimed, he’ll land back at Triple-A Albuquerque.
Valaika lost a spring-training roster battle with Adames, but was promoted from Triple-A on April 18. Since then, he has 5 hits in 14 at-bats, scored 4 runs, and played four different positions.
“Christian has been a good Rockie throughout his career,’’ Black said. “He may be back with us; we’ll see. These are difficult (decisions) when they’re one of your own. (Valaika) has helped up win. He’s performed. He’s gotten hits. He has the ability to move around the diamond.’’
By Tony DeMarco